The Los Angeles Lakers’ prospects were never going to be all that swell in 2014-15 . The team is thin, injury-prone, lacking defenders, and featuring a questionable mindset when it comes to attempting three-pointers. One saving grace that fans did have to look forward to was the potential, at last, for a pairing of a healthy Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Though the two would have been diminished by age and injury, the throwback backcourt would have been fun to take in. We’ve, again, been denied a chance at watching as much. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report was the first to drop word on Thursday evening that Nash will be ruled out for the entire 2014-15 season because of ongoing nerve damage in his back. The two-time MVP has said repeatedly that he has no interest in moving his family away from Los Angeles in order to join another team, so barring an unexpected contract offer from the Lakers or Los Angeles Clippers next season, Steve Nash will effectively retire after this diagnosis. It’s an incredibly unfortunate end to a career that, as recently as 24 months ago, seemed to be aging better than most other players in NBA history. Nash played All-Star level ball in his final year with the Phoenix Suns in 2011-12, leading the NBA in assist percentage and working in 62 of that season’s 66 games. The Lakers were all too giddy to send a pair of first-round draft picks Phoenix’s way for the right to sign Nash to a three-year, nearly $28 million contract during that offseason, teaming Nash with Bryant and eventually All-Star center Dwight Howard in the Laker lineup. Things fell apart almost immediately, as Nash fractured his left leg in Los Angeles’ second game of the season, and his subsequent rush to return from that injury resulted in the back, neck and nerve pain that limited his 2012-13 run, and benched him for nearly all of the next season. With nearly a year and a half’s worth of rehab to his credit including the lost 2013-14 season, Nash seemed prime to give it one last go this year, and give his career a proper, if lottery-bound, send off. Nash started his team’s first two exhibition games, but had to ask out of the first quarter of the second contest against the Golden State Warriors. Days later, he reportedly re-injured his back while carrying luggage, which resulted in the future Hall of Famer missing practice. Now Nash has this diagnosis, and we have the grim knowledge that we’ve probably already watched Steve Nash play his last NBA game. What we should then do with that knowledge is thank our lucky stars that we ever got to see him at all. Some 14 years ago, around this time, Steve Nash was battling Howard Eisley for the role as the Dallas Mavericks’ starting shooting guard. Following two injury-plagued and ineffective seasons with the Mavericks, the team smartly signed the well-regarded Eisley as starting insurance should Nash’s Achilles and back injuries continue to limit his play. Nash instead beat Eisley out and turned in a stellar season, as the Mavericks made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Steve went on to make the All-Star team in his next year, the first of eight such appearances. There was a real chance that the Steve Nash that we grew to know and admire may never have come to fruition had his injury woes sustained. Nash could have limped out of this league a decade ago, never thrilling us with his work with Dallas’ fabulous offensive outfit or Phoenix’s legendary Seven Seconds or Less revue. (On a personal note, Nash’s ascension meant quite a bit to the guy currently writing this. He was one of two bench afterthoughts, Darrell Armstrong being the other, that I hopped on as role players that could eventually take a star turn in this league – especially after watching Nash dominate the late goings of these two games in the first month of his rookie year. He seemed like a quicker Mark Price, or Kevin Johnson with deeper range, and to a game tape-hoarding teenager that wanted to eventually make a living covering the NBA, having Nash eventually take off meant a whole hell of a lot for my confidence in my choice of career.) Nash has yet to comment, to officially retire, and we don’t blame the guy. Having the ability to play a game that you mastered at for so long taken away from you is quite the shock, even if Nash’s nerve issues have been in place for nearly two years now. It’s just as cruel a blow to NBA fandom, with less than a week to go before the season’s tipoff, to learn that one of the greatest point guards of all time is being taken away from us. We got him for a while, though. A great while. Never forget that. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
The Scoop:Dwight won't get to face his old team in the last road game of the preseason and there has been no word of his knee injury being a factor in this decision. He should be ready to go to start the season and will look to bounce back from a mildly disappointing 2013-14.
Dwight Howard (knee) shook off a slow start to finish Sunday's exhibition with 11 points, eight rebounds, one steal and two blocks in just 17 minutes vs. the Warriors.
The Scoop:This was Dwight's first exhibition action since Oct. 7 but he showed minimal rust, and should be ready to go for the Rockets' season opener. Owners willing to accept his awful FT shooting should benefit from stats right around his 2013-14 averages -- 18.3 points on 59.1 percent shooting, 12.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.
Last season went about as well as the Portland Trail Blazers organization and fans could have hoped. The team immediately outperformed preseason expectations with a 17-3 (and then 31-9) start to put itself in excellent position to grab a postseason berth. A rough March kept them from nabbing homecourt advantage in the first round, but a thrilling six-game victory over the Houston Rockets — capped by Damian Lillard's series-ending buzzer-beater — ensured that the Blazers could look at 2013-14 as a massive success. Over the course of a few months, a team thought to be in rebuilding mode became able to entertain challenging for a conference title. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] This is absolutely a good position for the franchise, but it also presents new challenges as head coach Terry Stotts and his players attempt to build on the gains of last season. The Blazers added several players who should improve a previously thin bench, but they remain heavily dependent on their starting five. Plenty of teams find themselves in the same situation, but few contenders take it to the same extreme as the Blazers. They will go as far as Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez take them. Those players are very good, to be fair. Lillard is coming into his own as a star, Matthews is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league, Batum is effectively the same thing as a small forward, Aldridge was the best player on either team in the Rockets series, and Lopez defends well enough to allow his frontcourt mate to focus on his scoring. In fact, they were one of the best five-man lineups in the league (especially when adjusted for total minutes played). Even if the Blazers are especially dependent on this group, they at least know where to turn when needed. Stotts doesn't have to think especially hard in crunch time. It remains to be seen if that reliance on a handful of players gets Portland in trouble due to injury or any other prolonged absence. Though I'm sure they'll take their chances after finding such fine form a year ago. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: Ahead of schedule, then a reality check, then ahead of schedule again. Did the summer help at all? Yes, because the Blazers added several veterans who should bring some stability to what was one of the league's worst benches. Steve Blake should serve as a capable backup for Lillard and even team with him in some cases, while center Chris Kaman can provide an offensive threat that Lopez mostly lacks. Portland could have used a pick in June's draft to add some wild cards into the mix, but the summer could lead to gains for shooting guard Will Barton (one of the team's few bright spots in the Spurs series) and C.J. McCollum, whose rookie season was derailed by injury. Go-to offseason acquisition: Kaman did not prove to be an especially good replacement for Dwight Howard with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, playing in just 39 games with an average of just 18.9 minutes per contest. He was quite effective when he did play, though averaging 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Those are numbers that the Blazers would welcome, particularly given their reliance on Aldridge for post scoring. If Kaman can stay healthy — a tall order, given that he hasn't played 70 games since 2009-10 — he could reshape Portland's scoring options. Glaring weakness: If for some reason you just jumped to this section, here's some news for you — Portland had a really bad bench in 2013-14. It should be a little better this season due to the additions of Blake and Kaman and the presumed improvement of Barton and others, but the Blazers are at considerable risk of an injury to one of their starters turning the season into a trying one.